It has been a while since I've written, I know, but haven't been able to do so what with moving into our first house, the packing and unpacking and the inevitable long list of errands to get done. It, also, didn't help that it took just over a week to get the Internet hooked up. So, that is by way of excuse for my silence over the last few weeks.
Now that I'm back, I thought the most helpful thing I could do would be to revisit the Joshua discussion that we were having last July. In that post, I attempted to apply the four-fold sense of scripture to Joshua 1-7; a passage which I had read recently and which struck me could benefit from this exegetical approach. In the course of the discussion which followed, a regular commenter, Jim, suggested that the anagogical level of the exegesis ran the risk of becoming eisegesis- that is, could be seen as reading in meaning, not extracting it from the passage. I countered with a suggestion that it was on this level that the the different readings of the OT by Jews and Christians becomes much more prominent as well as agreeing on the importance of reading the OT. Maureen (also, a regular) defended the anagogical level of exegesis by suggesting that it was implicit in the way that biblical writers wrote. Here is the link to that post for those of you who may have missed it and want to see the full discussion.
In thinking about this exchange, I did want to add a few things in retrospect.
Firstly, I don't think I made it clear that, strictly speaking, what I was attempting to do was more typology than allegory. Now, that isn't that big a deal, I grant, as typology is a species of allegory- the difference being that typology is rooted historically because the types are drawn from the history of Israel and linked to later events, usually in Jesus' lifetime. Thus, the earlier event is seen as predicting and preparing the way for the much more significant later event. Thus, the blood of the lamb in Passover is a type of Jesus' blood shed on the cross or Moses extending his arms during the battle against the Amalkites (Exodus 17, 8-15) is a type of Jesus on the cross. The type is, in this sense, a dim reflection of the later event which is, usually, associated with the life of Christ. However, there is a contextual similarity. In the context of the blood of lamb type, the contextual similarity which seems meant is that of sacrifice through blood leading to salvation (of Israel and of the world). In the context of the Moses example, it is that of suffering leading to victory (again, Israel against the real threat of the Amalkites in the first case and people (especially of God) against the forces of evil in the world).
The distinguishing mark between typology and allegory is that typology relies on history rather more than allegory. Allegory is, ultimately, ahistorical, while typology keeps a two-fold sense to history- the event itself is what it is, but it has a hidden significance which only comes to light later, after the coming of Jesus. This, I think, connects to my point about reading the OT in Christian eyes because the type can only be detected in retrospect, when the event it connects to, actually happens. In this case, this is the life of Christ.
A second and more important point in this connection is that my discussion of the typology in Joshua was, in fact, incomplete. I think there is a modified typology between Exodus and Joshua, as I argued, but I didn't try to extend that to what I think the real referent is- Jesus. The fact that the Exodus story was widely considered a type for Jesus and his relationship with the Church (as Israel) suggests that such a connection is essential for understanding this passage and may explain why Jim protested the anagogical level as much as he did as it did kind of come from nowhere. However, if we see in the Exodus story and the wanderings of the Jews in the wilderness as a type of the Church's sojourn in the world, the types will make better sense in a Christian interpretation. I think I've made the link to the Passover story more explicit, so the Rahab story may be considered a secondary type because the red string is intended to recall the blood of the lamb which is, as we observed above, is a type of Jesus' blood. So, the two OT stories share the same typological referent- Jesus' blood and its saving power. This would hold true of the crossing of the Jordon and the crossing of the Red Sea as a type of baptism, especially previewed by Jesus. I'll have to think more on the other parallels, but I think you see where I'm going with this.
My last point is a rather more theological point and one that I think Jim may have problems with. Ultimately, Jim's concern about my anagogical exegesis will probably not be solved by the more full explanation of my allegorical method. I say this because the core of the concern is that I'm reading in meanings which are inconsistent to the meanings intended by the author and remembered by the community addressed by these writings. In a sense, he is right because central to my application of typology to this (or any text) is a suggestion that there is a layer of meaning which the original writers did not understand fully and which we, as Christians, do. That is, we are forced, as Christians, in light of Jesus' life and teaching, to read the Bible quite differently than the original Jewish writers and readers did. In that sense, we are committed to an eisegesis because we are, frankly, reading in the story of Christ into the story of Israel in the firm belief that the story of Israel was meant as a way of previewing and preparing for the salvation of story implicit in Jesus' life, death and resurrection.
So, this begs the question of which reading should we privilege and here we come to precisely where Jim and I are in disagreement. Jim rightly points out that the original intent of the text is more consistent with a Jewish/historical reading. While I agree that this is the original intent and we need to pay strict attention to it, I'm arguing that a second, hidden level of meaning which is deeply Christocentric is key to fully understanding the passage. I am, of course, opening a huge exegetical can of worms here because issues like who decides on a valid allegorical/typological meaning, what to do about the spectre of supersessionism implicit in patristic allegory/typology and what to do about history to name just a few issues before us. Yet, the promise of this kind of patristic reading to get us away from the narrow-minded literalism (in both its conservative and liberal incarnations) characteristic of the current series of church wars as well as help us to understand the OT more fully.
As always, comments and criticisms are welcome.